We all remember the classic fairytale of Sleeping Beauty. You know, the one where the beautiful princess is cursed as a child to prick her finger on the spindle of the spinning wheel to fall into a deep sleep. There was no escaping fate, the moment she pricks her finger, she falls fast asleep. I was always envious of her serene and peaceful sleep; recalling my many nights of tossing and turning. Unfortunately, the American population is also afflicted with such low-quality sleep. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 35% of Americans report their sleep quality as “poor” or “only fair”. The question then is, how can we achieve this princess’ peaceful sleep? Being the subject of my own clinical trial, I have found a few different ways that have helped improve sleep quality.
There are so many different sleeping apps out there. Just type in “sleep” to your search bar in the app store and a plethora of options await you. Of course, you can choose whatever app that suits you best, however, I recommend the Headspace app. I was introduced to this a while ago and have loved using it. This app focuses primarily on mindfulness and meditation, but also provides help with sleep for its users. Perhaps the two most useful tools that I have found on this particular app is the “wind downs” and “sleep music” features. The wind downs are various meditations and visualization exercises to help prepare your body and mind for a good night’s sleep. The sleep music provides a nice soothing “spa-like” music that accompany you off into a night of restful sleep. This app is free and you can get a minimal selection of meditations and music. However, to have the full selection you will need to pay for a subscription of $5.99 a month. But before you write it off completely, you get a free 2-week trial! I’m sure there are many monthly subscriptions that you already pay for, so why add another? If you are been struggling to sleep well, I would highly recommend you try it. I will say, ending the day with a 3, 5, or 10-minute meditation with breathing exercises complete with calming music as you drift off to sleep is quite honestly, in my opinion, priceless.
Two words, white noise. I love the rain, unfortunately living in Southern California I don’t get to experience the rain as much as I would like. But when it does, you can bet I am soaking up every bit of it. The sound of the rain hitting the roof and trickling down to the ground, is mesmerizing. It is rainy nights such as these when I immediately drift off into a deep sleep. Another app that I would like to introduce you to is, Rain Rain Sleep Sounds. Instead of rain, maybe you love the sound of the beach. No problem, the app has endless beach waves crashing on the shore just for you. Or perhaps you love the sound of hearty fire crackling, this app has you covered! There are over 40 different nature and white noise sounds to help soothe you to sleep that have a no-limit playback time, with no adds! Simply type “rain rain” into your search bar in the app store and it is the first to pop up. You do have the option to subscribe and get access to more sounds, but I have found no need to subscribe; the options you get for free are absolutely great, save your money there. I firmly believe this is the best way to simulate nature’s calming and relaxing sounds within the comfort of your own cozy bed.
Put your phone away. Personally, this was the hardest habit to break, but the results were worth it. As technology has advanced and given us smart phones, we have become increasingly reliant on our them. And rightfully so, you have a mini computer with you wherever you go, easy to use and extremely convenient. But as Uncle Ben once said to Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility”. I believe we need to exercise more responsibility and self-control with the use of our phones. It is so easy to be sucked into the black hole of social media, games, national/international news, texts and emails all on the tiny screens in our hands. Much research has been conducted evaluating the effects of screen time before bed. It has been found that the screen from your phone emits a blue light that can suppress the release of the hormone, melatonin, which is your sleep-inducing hormone. This can result in trouble falling asleep as well as trouble staying asleep. The solution put forward by National Sleep Foundation state that the use of such screens should be removed 1-2 hours before bedtime. Usually my wind down before bed includes scrolling through social media or playing a game, it was quite the test of my self-control not doing so. But after the first couple of nights, it became easier and I began to notice a difference in my sleep quality. Allow yourself a break from your phone and the world, unplug and disengage.
Finally, have a night-time routine. Whether you put into practice my suggestions or do your own thing, it doesn’t matter, as long as it works for you! Whatever it is you want to do, just make it consistent. These routines create a pattern for your mind and body that will help regulate your internal clock and acclimate your body to your new sleep schedule.
Sweet dreams are within your grasp! If you are having a hard time falling asleep or wake up restless, give some of these a try. You may be surprised what works; I know I was. After putting a few of these into practice, we might just be able to sleep like the princess, Sleeping Beauty herself, deep into a calm and peaceful sleep.
And that’s the dirt!